This year’s Battle of the Bands com­pe­tition ended early due to a bowing dance floor. | Courtesy Joseph Harvey

At Phi Mu Alpha’s annual music com­pe­tition, Hillsdale stu­dents rocked till they dropped —almost through the floor of the local Elks Lodge. On November 17, approx­i­mately 300 people gathered to witness six student bands go head-to-head in the Battle of the Bands. The winner would receive bragging rights and the oppor­tunity to donate the event’s pro­ceeds to the charity of their choice.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of English Dwight Lindley served as one of the competition’s judges along with fellow college faculty members Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Classics Eric Hutchinson and Assistant Pro­fessor of Music Derek Stauff.

“I thought it was a lot of fun and I would do it again,” Lindley said. “The bands were of a higher quality than what I’ve some­times heard. It was very enjoyable.”

Senior Shad Strehle, pres­ident of Hillsdale’s chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, said he agreed. With more than 100 people in atten­dance as the program began, the night was off to a great start.

“People were there early and they stuck around,” he said. “The bands played some of the best sets I’ve heard. The room was electric. Everyone was having a great time. It was on track to be the most suc­cessful Battle of the Bands in history.”

That is, until the floor began to cave in.

“At one point toward the end of Penny and the Mandimes, Dr. Hutchinson and I looked at each other and said, ‘I feel like we’re looking down at the crowd in a way that we weren’t a few minutes ago,’” Lindley said. “I found myself thinking, ‘Did all the tall Simpson guys leave?’ because all of the sudden people were feeling shorter. It was only grad­ually that I realized ‘No, they’re all here, the floor is just lower.’ It was sort of an oth­er­worldly expe­rience.”

As it turned out, a roomful of enthu­si­astic Hills­dalians jumping in time with the music proved too much for the old wooden floor, even though atten­dance was lower than the official room capacity of 400.

“We knew there was a problem when we could phys­i­cally see the floor bowing by the middle of the third set,” Strehle said. “But we didn’t realize there was any struc­tural damage until I went down to the basement during the fourth set. When people jumped, the door to the basement would fly open because of air being pushed through the floor. That’s when someone from the Elks Lodge said we needed to act.”

Despite a band in progress and two more still scheduled to perform, Strehle was forced to cut the evening short.

“It was dis­ap­pointing, obvi­ously,” said junior Carson Waites, who was per­forming with his band, the Bio­me­chanics, when Strehle broke the news to the crowd. “We love per­forming — that’s why we play. But it’s cer­tainly not our only avenue of per­forming music, and can­celling the rest of the event was for the best. It’s an old building and I guess when you rock that hard, things like that happen.”

Without a com­pleted com­pe­tition, Strehle said it didn’t make sense to declare a winner.

“There was no way for the judges to make a decision,” he said. “They left without even really filling out their forms, which is under­standable. Voting got pretty messed up. A lot of people took refunds and we lost a lot of money.”

There are no plans to hold a rematch anytime soon.

So far, Phi Mu Alpha has not spoken with Elks Lodge to discuss the damage, although they plan to meet in the near future. In the meantime, the Dean’s Office will be reaching out to the lodge to discuss the matter. Strehle said the music fra­ternity has enjoyed a great rela­tionship with Elks Lodge for years and hopes both parties will be able to walk away without any ill-will.

Regardless of how the sit­u­ation turns out, however, Strehle said he is thankful that everyone made it out of the building safely.

“In the moment it was rather ter­ri­fying to be in that sit­u­ation and I was getting kind of des­perate trying to get people to clear out,” he said. “For similar cir­cum­stances in the future, if you’re at a party or a show and somebody gives you a warning, take it seri­ously. If people had seen what I’d seen, I think they would have been a lot more con­cerned.”

But despite the gravity of a sit­u­ation that could have ended in dis­aster, the incident may prove to be a blessing in dis­guise for Phi Mu Alpha. Junior Reagan Dugan has attended the event every year he’s been at Hillsdale and said he will absolutely go again.

“Inevitably next year’s Battle of the Bands is going to be even bigger because everyone heard about how we almost broke the floor,” Dugan said. “I’ll be telling the story of the time the 6’9” guy in the middle of the floor was below my chin.”